After having some really horrible race starts in recent weeks I was determined to do better at this race and actually got going in a semi-decent fashion. I tried to race smart and pedal hard down the straight stretch and never let off the pedaling as we entered the grass and a couple of slight turns. I know that a lot of times it is easy to let yourself coast a little bit into that transition especially since Estabrook is bumpy so I didn't as I knew I would need every little advantage.
Right after we took the sharp right turn into the more tree lined area Kari came by me which was to be expected as I wouldn't expect to hold her off after a long straight section. That left me and then Heidi at the back of the race. I tried to work the turns to my advantage but I have to admit that the turns at Estabrook are not the flowly kind that I love but still something I can try to milk for a few seconds. By the time I hit the spiral the first time I could see that I had a small gap.
Exiting the spiral and then over the barriers by the parking lot I knew that I had to keep working on the long flat towards the woods. As I headed down into the woods I put the bike into its biggest gear to "hammer" and try to get a few more seconds on Heidi by ripping it through the woods as fast as possible. Next up is the short run-up which seemed to offer just choppy footholds. Once up and over that you hammer to get out of the woods, take a few more turns, hit a crazy bumpy stretch, make a sharp turn and then you can get another look at where the competition is. I was maintaining a slight gap still on Heidi as I headed towards the finishing stretch.
This stretch is one of my biggest nemesis on this course as it is bumpy, annoying, long, and straight. My mind is yelling at me to shift down but I told myself not to do that. Well, actually I think I did shift down and then I forced myself to shift back up and pretend to be a racer.
On lap 2 I was onto the bike path section and I could see a guy up in front of me. I realized he was just riding through the park and not a racer and I hoped I would be able to get around him smoothly. Luck was not on my side though and I caught up to him just as I wanted to make the right into the grassy, woody section. He seemed oblivious that there was a race going on and stopped right where I wanted to make my turn. I yelled out that I was going around him on the left and turning right. Luckily he stayed stopped and crisis was averted.
As I headed into the turns around the trees I was convinced that I had lost precious time to Heidi with slowing to get around him. Luckily when I hit the spiral it seemed like the gap was pretty close to the same and the race was still on and I needed to get on it!
The race pretty much went the same from there on in with me trying to not slack in the straight aways and using the spiral to judge if Heidi was gaining on me. With a couple of laps left to go the Cat 3 guys started to lap through and that is usually a sign that your place is probably not going to change. At this point you are focused on staying out of the way of the guys and not worrying about the person in front or behind you. Sure sometimes (like at the Sun Prairie Cup) when the guys are pretty much through you realize you are super close to one of your competitors still and the race is back on but that isn't the norm.
All in all a super fun race on a seriously bumpy course. It wouldn't have been nearly as much fun if Heidi hadn't been there to spur me on to race and push myself. It's great having some people to race against even if I came into the season completely unprepared. It really makes cross much more fun!